Ballmer backs away from 'Vista Capable' legal row

Microsoft boss tells judge: 'I don't know nuffink'

Steve Ballmer has distanced himself from the ongoing “Vista Capable” legal spat by claiming he had no direct involvement in Microsoft’s marketing campaign for the operating system.

In a document (pdf courtesy of SeattlePI) filed last Friday, the software giant’s CEO effectively exonerated himself in the Windows Vista Capable blame game, choosing instead to point the finger at a pair of retired MS wonks:

I was not involved in any of the operational decisions about the Windows Vista Capable program. I was not involved in establishing the requirements computers must satisfy to qualify for the Windows Vista Capable program. I was not involved in formulating any market strategy or any public messaging surrounding the Windows Vista Capable program.

To the best of my recollection, I do not have any unique knowledge of nor did I have any unique involvement in any decisions regarding the Windows Vista Capable program. All of my knowledge about those decisions came through other people at Microsoft, notably Jim Allchin, Microsoft's then-co-President, Platforms Products & Services, and Will Poole, Microsoft's then Senior Vice President, Windows Client Business.

Lawyers acting for the plaintiff in the class action lawsuit have been going after Ballmer’s scalp by requesting he be deposed in the case.

But it emerged on Friday that Microsoft has asked US District Court Judge Marsha Pechman to block the plaintiffs’ attorneys request that Ballmer should testify.

The Microsoft chief also said in the filing, dated 26 September, that he only took part in "brief discussions" in 2006 at a "general level" with partners including chip giant Intel about the Vista Capable program.

Beyond that he said, under penalty of pejury, to have had no knowledge of, or involvement in, business decisions made by Allchin and Poole.

Allchin retired from the firm in January 2007 after working at Redmond for 16 years. Poole quit Microsoft last month.

The suit, filed in February, alleges that buyers were deceived, because most purported “Vista Capable” PCs bought before the official retail launch in January 2007 could run the stripped-down Basic version of Vista only.

Some customers felt they had been duped by the sticky labels slapped on PCs that lacked the appropriate hardware to run Vista Premium's memory-chugging media centre, and the clunky Aero interface.

Plaintiffs in the case allege that Microsoft artificially inflated demand in the run-up to Christmas 2006, by falsely advertising that PCs would be capable of running the full version of the firm’s delayed Vista operating system. ®

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